Constipation After C Section

If you went without food during a long labor, you could go a day or two without a bowel movement because there isn't anything in your intestines, and if you had a C section, it can take three to four days for your bowels to begin functioning normally again. It is not an uncommon phenomenon: at least 20% of women suffer from constipation after C section for the first few days of recovery. If you’re constipated and can’t go, relax! Don’t force it. A few lifestyle and dietary changes might provide constipation relief, but if constipation persists, see your health care provider as you may need medication or a stool softener.

Causes of Constipation After C Section

1.   Internal Causes

The constipation could be a result of diarrhea during pre-labor or early labor, and vitamins taken during the breastfeeding period may also be a contributing factor. What's more, the iron tablets you were faithfully taking might also be contributing to your constipation. The digestive system becomes very slow while in labor, and takes a few days to return to normal. The chronic constipation after delivery could be the leftover elevated levels of the hormone progesterone in your body that you produced throughout pregnancy.

2.   External Causes

The stitches and bruising from delivery make women feel uncomfortable when using the toilet. New mothers fear that they might tear the stitches and hence reluctant to use the toilet when they get the urge. Furthermore, many women do not like using the toilet in hospitals because they feel uncomfortable with the lack of privacy. Painkillers like diamorphine or pethidine, for pain relief during labor, may also slow down a bowel movement.

What Can You Do?

You don't have to resign yourself to the misery of constipation. There are plenty of things you can do to ease the constipation after C section. It’s important to be aware of the lifestyle and dietary changes that can help resolve chronic constipation. Following are a few simple steps you should take when dealing with postpartum constipation:

1.   Keep Hydrated

Dehydration will cause the fiber you consume to become dry and compacted in your digestive tract, worsening the constipation. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids such as water and fruit juices, and if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to increase your fluid intake to support milk production. Normally, drinking about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day is good.You will also want to limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, because they actually cause dehydration.

2.   Eat Prunes or Drink Prune Juice

Eating prunes or drinking prune juice can help relieve constipation by increasing the number of bowel movements. They have stool softening properties that reduce straining during bowel movements. Prunes are high in fiber accounting for some of positive digestive effects, and they also contain natural laxative compounds that help to relieve constipation.

3.   Add Fiber to Your Diet

Adding dietary fiber can help alleviate constipation after C section. There are two types of fiber that your body needs, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can absorb water, which helps soften stools and make them easier to pass. You get soluble fiber from fresh fruits, and vegetables, along with whole grains such as pasta and whole-grain bread. Add foods with fiber to your diet slowly, 20 to 35 grams is enough, because eating more fiber may cause bloating and gas.

4.   Exercise

Many medical experts agree that constipation may be caused by a lack of physical activity. You were likely told to rest after your C section, and to limit yourself in terms of physical activity to give your body time to heal. However, once you are no longer recuperating, and in consultation with your healthcare provider, you should resume your normal activities and get a little exercise to help relieve constipation. Begin with walking to help stimulate intestinal function as soon as possible, and try to walk a little further every day.


5.   Have Some Legumes

Legumes are a major source of high quality inexpensive protein, and navy beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, soybeans, and lentils will add soluble fiber to your diet and help you become regular again. The gas produced by beans can be minimized by breaking down the fiber before eating by grinding or mashing them, such as hummus, or refried beans. You can also minimize gas by not eating excessive amounts, and eating them in combination with other foods.

6.   Limit Processed Food

Avoid fast foods or processed foods, such as white breads, doughnuts, unripe bananas, potato chips, sausage, fast-food burgers and chocolate. Limit low-fiber foods, or foods that are high in fat and sugar, such as ice cream, cheese and other high fat dairy products, because they can cause or aggravate constipation after C section.

7.   Other Tips to Ease Constipation

Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. The longer you delay, the more likely water will be absorbed from your stool, and the harder it becomes.

  • Eat meals regularly.
  • Don't take medicines with constipating side-effects, including some painkillers such as codeine.
  • Limit carbonated products because it may cause your intestines to fill with more gas than normal.

When Should You See Your Doctor?

Although it may be bothersome to have constipation after C section, it's not usually serious. However, chronic constipation can lead to complications, or be a sign of a more serious condition. Consult with your health care provider if you experience any of the following conditions:

  • Bowel movements occurring more than 3 days apart, despite lifestyle changes in exercise or diet
  • Constipation lasting longer than 3 weeks
  • Intense pain in abdomen
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Painful hemorrhoids
  • Diarrhea that alternates with constipation
  • Unusual weight loss
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